ORLANDO, FLA. — Donald Duncan, new president of the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., called for teamwork between trade associations in a May 8 speech to SPE leaders. Duncan, in one of his first public speeches since becoming SPI president in February, addressed the Society of Plastics Engineers business lunch, where SPE officials detail the group's budget and outline future goals. The lunch was during SPE's Annual Technical Conference, held in Orlando.
Washington-based SPI has faced some troublesome times in the past few years, after a plan to merge with the American Plastics Council collapsed and some SPI members defected to join other groups.
Right now, Duncan said, plastics lacks a central rallying point that can draw together a diverse industry. Duncan called cooperation between trade groups a major challenge for association leaders.
"Teamwork is very, very important. Teamwork within an organization. Teamwork across organizations. Teamwork throughout the whole industry," he said.
But it won't be easy, Duncan said in his five-minute speech.
"In this age of almost-specialization and segmentation, it's very difficult to find compelling reasons for an industry that's as large and diverse as the plastics industry is, to want to come together in a total industry-type activity," Duncan told SPE leaders. "Most of us have to look at what's impacting us today. If we're in the vinyl-siding business or we're in the plastic-bag business, you tend to look at what the immediate issues are impacting you and your business, then kind of rally around those.
"What would be nice to have are some rallying issues — some really critical issues — that would hold the industry together. I'd just as soon not go back and have to fight the wars around recycling, public opinion and all of those kinds of things that were rallying issues, that did hold this industry together. I think those issues — while they're certainly not finished, they're not history — they certainly have been dealt with in a very effective manner so they're not life-threatening, either.
"So that makes the challenge to try to bring an industry together even more difficult."
Duncan also addressed the joint spring meeting of SPI's Machinery and Moldmakers divisions in Boca Raton, Fla., on May 9.
Michael Cappelletti, SPE executive director who introduced Duncan at the business luncheon, said Duncan rearranged his schedule to address the SPE group.
Throughout the tensions between SPI and Arlington, Va.-based APC, the 29,500-member SPE has maintained good relations with both organizations. APC President Ron Yocum visited Antec to address SPE leaders May 7, the first day of the conference.
Duncan said he got a call from Cappelletti just a few weeks into his tenure, inviting him to Orlando.
Duncan recalled that, when he started out in the plastics industry, one of his first reference books was an SPE book on polymer chemistry.
He pledged to work closely with the Brookfield, Conn.-based SPE.
"I look forward to being a better team player," Duncan said.